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Cleveland Challenges State to Save Fannie Lewis Labor Law

Mayor Frank Jackson with a bust of councilwoman Fannie Lewis

The City of Cleveland is going to court asking for a temporary restraining order to stop a new state law that prevents local hiring requirements, from going into effect next week (Aug 31).     As in previous cases, the city argues that state legislators are taking away their home rule authority.  Ideastream's Mark Urycki  has details.


The Republican dominated General Assembly has been on a roll the past few years centralizing government power in Columbus.  They have passed laws that prevent cities from passing laws on fracking, on guns, and on residency requirements.  Cleveland saw several of its own laws thrown out in the process.  Now it's the city's so-called Fannie Lewis law promoted by the late councilwoman. 

Cleveland’s local hiring rules require 20% of work hours on city construction projects be performed by local residents but House Bill 180, signed into law in May by Governor Kasich,  prevents cities from requiring any portion of jobs go to local residents. 

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson showed a rare display of temper Tuesday when reprters kept questioning the legal minutiae of the dispute.  

“If we're going to create the environment, facilitate the investment of billions of dollars in this city, it is only right that the people of the city of Cleveland also help benefit from it.” 

Jackson says in the last 3 ½ years local residents have earned $34 million dollars from city projects.  He argued that the city is spending its own money to lift residents out of poverty and into careers.

“We act on ensuring inclusion; we act on getting rid of disparity of income; we act on getting rid of disparity of quality of life and community.  And we do it through laws like this that have been effective.  That has resulted,  in 3 years,  $34 million dollars of wage income to Clevelanders, just in 3 years alone.”

The head of the Cleveland Construction Employers Association, Tim Linville, says his members have adapted to the Cleveland bill since it was enacted in 2004.

“So yes it was an adjustment 12 years ago but now this is the way of doing business.  And the city has shown and the contracting community has shown and the contracting community has shown that it’s very doable, it’s reasonable,  and that it helps.”

The sponsors of House Bill 180 Representative Ron Maag testified that employment contracts like Cleveland’s force companies "to hire untrained workers" and make some of the jobs unavailable to people in the suburbs.  City officials counter that 80% of the work can still be done by non-Clevelanders. 

HB 180 reads:

  • The inalienable and fundamental right of an individual to choose where to live pursuant to Section 1 of Article I, OhioConstitution;
  • Section 34 of Article II, Ohio Constitution, specifies that laws may be passed providing for the comfort, health, and general welfare of all employees, and that no other provision of the Ohio Constitution impairs or limits this including Section 3 of Article XVIII, Ohio Constitution.

S ECTION 4. The General Assembly finds, in enacting section 9.49 of the Revised Code in this act, that it is a matter of statewide concern to generally allow the employees working on Ohio's public improvement projects to choose where to live, and that it is necessary in order to provide for the comfort, health, safety, and general welfare of those employees to generally prohibit public authorities from requiring contractors, as a condition of accepting contracts for public improvement projects, to employ a certain number or percentage of individuals who reside in any specific area of the state.